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Many Dogs


Principles that Guide My Training

  1. Safety will ALWAYS be a Priority

  2. Training should be FUN for the dog and handler

  3. RESPECT the emotions of both you and your dog

  4. Behaviors that get REWARDED get REPEATED

Element Dog Training believes that owning a pet is an amazing and rewarding experience, but it is also a responsibility. Training your pet properly will lead you to a greater understanding of not just your dog and but yourself as well.  I firmly believe in the owner-pet relationship being one of mutual understanding and respect and base my training on this philosophy.  A quality relationship requires effort which is why I will fully immerse you in the training process.  With this approach, I find that owners learn as much, if not more, than their pets.

Training has 2 fundamental elements:

  1. An ability to communicate

  2. An ability to motivate.

How do we communicate with our dogs?

People and dogs naturally utilize very different styles of communication.  People communicate through language.  We are verbal creatures and we tell other people what we want.  We use words to communicate how we feel and what we want/need.  Dogs don't use words to communicate, their primary method of communication is through body language.  Their eyes, ears, brow, hair, tail, and body position all combine to deliver information on how the dog is feeling in its environment.  Dog’s typically use verbal communication (barking, growling, whining) only after their initial attempts at communication weren’t heard.

​For us to communicate with our dogs we need teach them in a way they will understand.  This is done by pairing our physical signals with our verbal request.  This, in essence, helps to translate our language into the dog’s language.  For us to do this successfully we need to understand that dogs live in the moment and clearly communicate how they feel minute to minute.  By learning to recognize the signs of happy, engaged, aroused, stressed, tired, etc. we can determine if we are keeping the dog in the best state of mind to learn (when the dog is motivated). 

When working with problem behaviors people naturally assign human motivations.  However, while dogs do experience emotions, they do so in a way that is dog specific and is different than the human experience.  Since dogs aren’t able to verbally tell us why they behave the way they do, we will go through the dog’s history and learn to recognize the dog’s body language to attempt to identify the raw underlying motivation (fear, excitement, displacement, boredom, medical, etc.) for a behavior.  Then we can create a plan to help the dog deal with the situation in a more acceptable manner.  By learning how to recognize the signs of an impending behavior earlier we are able to more effectively communicate with our dogs and teach them how to respond appropriately through training, desensitization and/or counterconditioning.

How do we motivate our dogs?

We will utilize a variety of training principles including Errorless Learning, Positive Reinforcement, and LIMA (Least Invasive Minimally Aversive) to perfect your dog's behavior.  Errorless Learning is the concept of teaching without mistakes.  The Errorless Learning theory encourages us to set up the environment to guarantee we get the desired behavior from our dog.  Dog's behaviors, both good and bad, can be self-rewarding so by setting up the environment to get the desired behavior we are able to reward the correct behavior and extinguish the incorrect behavior (by ensuring it is never practiced).

​Errorless Learning sounds simple, right?  But we all know that the real world happens and that both we and our dogs make mistakes.  When this occurs, we will implement the LIMA principle, with Positive Reinforcement being the primary method we use to teach the dog how we want it to behave.  My training methods will focus only on those methods that will build trust between you and your dog.  I want your dog to look to you for direction when it is unsure how to respond and to listen to you because it looks forward to the outcome.  I don’t believe dogs should “behave” because they are concerned, worried, or fearful about how their owner will interact with them.

​I am a positive reinforcement trainer.  I utilize positive reinforcement to train not only because it is backed by science and by the major veterinary and pet professional organizations (AVMA, AVSAB, PPG, APDT, IAABC) but because it creates a deep, heartfelt bond between dogs and their owners.  I DO NOT use electronic collars (commonly known as training collars or shock collars), choke chains or prong collars, leash corrections, or any other tools that use pain for feedback when I train.  I train using positive reinforcement not only because it is an effective training method but because it provides secondary benefits:

  • It reinforces the relationship and trust between the dog and owner

  • It builds the dogs confidence in itself and its surroundings

  • It makes learning behaviors fun and rewarding, which significantly improves learning retention

  • It creates secondary positive associations with the people, animals, and surroundings that the dog trains in.

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